‘Their contribution to the health of Melbourne’s poor was inestimable.’
Emily Mary Stone (known as Mary) and her two cousins Constance and Grace were pioneers in opening up professions for women in Victoria in the federation era. The three were among Melbourne’s earliest women doctors and helped to found the Queen Victoria Hospital. Their lives ’embodied a spirit of service and sacrifice’ in the service of needy women, the community and the poor.
Mary was born at Mornington, the daughter of storekeepers. Educated in England, she became a teacher before graduating in medicine with honors from Melbourne University in 1893. Denied a medical residency at the Melbourne Hospital, she opened her own practice in Hawthorn. Three years earlier, Mary’s cousin, Constance Stone, had become the first woman to register with the Medical Board of Victoria after returning from Canada with a medical degree with first class honors. She had travelled there because Melbourne University refused to admit women at that time. When the university finally allowed entry in 1887, her sister Clara Stone was one of the first two women to graduate.
In 1895 the first meeting of the Victorian Medical Women’s Society took place in Constance’s home and Clara became its first president. In 1896 eleven of the female doctors decided to set up their own hospital. A free dispensary in La Trobe Street, where the three Doctors Stone regularly offered their services, evolved to the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1899. Later every woman in Victoria was asked to donate a shilling to support the cause – becoming known as ‘The Shilling Fund’.
Tragedy stalked the Stones however. Constance died of tuberculosis in 1902, although her daughter went on to become a doctor. Mary was killed in an accident when her bicycle collided with a wagon in 1910 and is buried in St Kilda Cemetery. Clara however lived to a great age. She opened a practice in Alma Road, St Kilda and died in 1957 at the age of 97.